Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?

Did Early Christians Eat Unleavened Bread Each Year?


Should Christians keep the days of unleavened bread?

Strangely, most who profess Christ have no idea that the days of unleavened bread for 2008 began yesterday–and runs until Saturday evening this week.  Nor do the think they should keep them.

Of course, Jesus, His Disciples, Paul, and early Christians kept them.

And even though the Apostle Paul instructed Christians to keep them,  most read over what the Bible clearly states on this.

While most professing Christians are aware that I Corinthians 5:7 teaches that “indeed Christ our Passover, was sacrificed for us”, they do not seem to literally observe the verse that follows. “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Corinthians 5:8). Actually, most professing Christians do not seem to be aware that they are supposed to keep any biblical feast. There are many reasons, though, to so do.

Perhaps before going further, I should quote and comment the entire verse of 1 Corinthians 5:7:

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

Notice clearly that the Corinthians must have been observing the Days of Unleavened Bread because the Apostle Paul stated “you truly are unleavened”. The problem that the Corinthians had was that they were not unleavened spiritually. That is why Paul continued and told them to also spiritually be unleavened “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”. This is what the Bible shows that the Apostle Paul was teaching. Do you believe it?

Furthermore, in Romans 3:25 it states, “in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed”. Does this mean we are to continue is sin? Of course not! A few verses later Paul wrote, “On the contrary, we establish the law” (Rom 3:31). So while most understand that the Passover pictures a remembrance of Jesus Christ and his sacrifice (I Cor 11:24-26), many seem to not understand that we are not to continue in sin.


Maybe one of the reasons is that they do not observe the Days of Unleavened Bread.

The Worldwide Church of God officially used to teach and keep the Days of Unleavened Bread. But no longer. In the February 1999 issue of its official publication The Worldwide News (WWN), it contained the following information in an article written by Don Mear,

“We knew that Jesus commanded us to “eat his flesh and drink his blood” by taking the bread and wine of communion. And we understood that in doing so we were partaking of the Lamb of God. We did it annually because we saw the Lamb of God as being the Passover lamb, and we knew that the Passover was an annual observance. But Jesus is more than just the Passover lamb…The author of Hebrews pointed out that we Christians “have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.” His implication is that just as they had their altar to eat from, we have our own altar to eat from. And by extension, as freely as they ate from theirs, we may eat from ours. This points us to the conclusion that Christians, who under the new covenant, are a nation of priests (1 Pet. 2:9), may eat of the sacrificial Lamb of God just as freely and frequently as did those priests of the old covenant. We are not restricted to eating the Lamb of God only once a year, any more than they were. Jesus is always our sin offering; he is always our guilt offering; he is always our peace and thank offering…Thank God our Father for the communion he gives us with himself in his beloved Son!”

Although the preceding quote suggests otherwise, the fact is that priests only ate the Passover once per year.

If the Days of Unleavened Bread were always kept in conjunction with Passover (which they always are in the Bible), then the sort of logic in the WWN article would be shown to be false. If every time one consumed the symbols representing body and blood of Jesus, they also had to keep seven days of Unleavened Bread and this was done weekly, then those so doing would never consume regular bread!

Now for those that argue that keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread is just a physical thing, there are two points to consider: the point of purging leaven out is to have sin out of our life (which is spiritual) and consuming the “Lamb of God” is also physical (with spiritual implications). Doing one without the other reminds me of certain Asiatic religions which feel that spinning a prayer wheel is equivalent to spending hours in prayer. Those followers probably at least think about some deity before they spin the wheel, but is that how God really wants to be worshiped? Does He approve of other “traditions of men” over His word?

Now it is true that leaven is not always shown to be bad. Jesus even stated, “the kingdom of God…is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures till it was all leavened” (Luke 13:20-21). This parable seems to illustrate that, even though the leaven was at first hidden, in the future all will know the true religion. Which is consistent with Habakkuk 2:14, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea”.

Thus, leaven may be a symbol of false religion now, but true religion in the future.

Some may wonder if early Christians kept the Days of Unleavened Bread. Well, as shown before, Paul taught that they should. But what about others?

Notice what the Catholic writer Eusebius recorded that Polycrates of Ephesus, around 195 A.D. wrote the following to the Roman Bishop Victor who, as the previous writing showed, wanted all who professed Christ to change Passover from the 14th of Nisan to Sunday:

We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord’s coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate. He fell asleep at Ephesus. And Polycarp in Smyrna, who was a bishop and martyr; and Thraseas, bishop and martyr from Eumenia, who fell asleep in Smyrna. Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the Gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith. And I also, Polycrates, the least of you all, do according to the tradition of my relatives, some of whom I have closely followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops; and I am the eighth. And my relatives always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ‘ We ought to obey God rather than man’ (Eusebius. Church History, Book V, Chapter 24. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Notice that Polycrates said that he and the other early church leaders (like the Apostles Philip and John, and their successors like Polycarp, Thraseas, Eumenia, Sagaris, Papirius, Melito) would not deviate from the Bible, and that they knew the Bible taught them to keep the Passover on the correct date, and not on a Sunday. Also notice that they always observed the day when the people put away the leaven. Polycrates also reminded the Roman bishop that true followers of Christ “obey God rather than men”.

Adventist researcher Daniel Liechty reported Sabbath-keepers in Transylvania in the 1500s and later kept the biblical Holy Days (such as the Feast of Trumpets called Day of Remembrance below) (and those are days his church does not observe):

The Sabbatarians viewed themselves as converted Gentiles.. They held to the biblical holidays. Passover they celebrated with unleavened bread…The first and last seventh day of Passover were full holidays…There is no mention of circumcision, so it is unlikely that they practiced circumcision (Liechty D. Sabbatarianism in the Sixteenth Century. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs (MI), 1993, pp. 61-62).

Notice that in the 1600s, those who kept the days of unleavened bread were persecuted for their beliefs:

And finally, the tragic “Accord of Deés” or Complanatio Deesiana in July 1638 definitely disjoined Sabbatarians from Unitarians. Unitarians were ordered to worship Jesus, baptize in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and to allow their publications censured–a coerced “complanatio.” The “Judaizers” and those who rejected and cursed Jesus, however, were excluded even from the new amnesty. Sabbatarians were easy target of the new discriminatory law: they observed the Sabbath, therefore they farmed on Sundays, abstained from eating pork and blood, celebrated the Passover with unleavened bread, and refused baptism of their children–the very sign of their expected conversion” (Gellérd, Judit. Spiritual Jews of Szekler Jerusalem A Four-Centuries History of Transylvanian Szekler (Székely) Sabbatarianism. In Literature of Memory VI: Hope and Despair STH TS 870, Fall 2000 Professor Elie Wiesel.–12/14/02).

Note that the “Judaizers” are separate from “those who rejected and cursed Jesus”. In this region, there were both true Christians (the “Judaizers” who celebrated the Passover with unleavened bread, etc.) and those who rejected Christ as Messiah (hence the Judaizers were not actually unitarian).

The New Testament shows that Christians continued to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread. Historians recorded that later Christians also kept the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Since most who profess Christ do not seem to consider that the early true Christian Church was much more “Jewish” than Greco-Roman, they tend to accept Greco-Roman holidays instead of the biblical ones that God gave to the Jews, that Jesus Himself kept, and that His early followers most definitely kept.

By keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread, Christians picture that they have heard the word of God, accepted the sacrifice of Jesus, try to put the word of God into practice, and have symbolically put false religion and sin out of their lives. By keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread, Christians show that they are willing to obey God over the traditions of men.

In conclusion, as is says in I Corinthians 5:8, “Therefore let us keep the feast”.

Two articles of related interest may include:

Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread? Do they have any use or meaning now? What is leaven?  What is leaven a symbol of? This article supplies some biblical answers.
Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible? This paper provides a biblical and historical critique of several articles, including one by WCG which states that this should be a local decision. What do the Holy Days mean? Also you can click here for the calendar of Holy Days.

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